There is nothing like watching the Tour de France to fire up the appetite for a bicycle ride. It has been rather wonderful watching the heroes of the tour struggle up iconic Yorkshire climbs. Of course there are not the crowds to cheer me while I struggle. The countryside around Durham is much more crinkly than the Tees valley and I can see that I’m going to either develop thighs like Hoy’s or lose some weight.
Setting off from the north western edge of Durham straight into the countryside past New College Durham I am immediately into open countryside. I imagine the A167 is a development boundary because of the sudden loss of houses to be replaced by fields. The B6532 climbs gently past Lanchester Road Hospital and Hartside Farm, but then ramps up 50m in a short space to reach Sacriston on the top of the hill. The views back towards Durham reveal green farmland, hedges and on the other side of the Wear valley, past the A1, and I wonder if it is possible to see Hetton-le-Hole. My map tells me that the hill I’m on is 170m above sea-level and that the hills behind Hetton-le-Hole are 150m; dropping away down to Seaham and then the North Sea.
In Sacriston I turn right at the lights and have a lovely 40kph downhill ride through Nettlesworth to the A167 and a 25m section of dual carriageway. Turning immediately off this I’m on a tiny country lane which is well wooded and brings the delightful Plawsworth Viaduct into view. At first it looks like a low bridge, with a strangely shallow arch. But as you get closer it become clear that this is just the last arch on the side of the hill before the mainline east coast railway touches down on the ground again.
This is quiet lane joins another back road turning back towards Durham and passes the Finchale (pronounced Finkel) training centre. I return into Durham through Newton Hall and in the middle of this residential area is the rather impressive looking County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Brigade Headquaters.
I had been blessed with a sunny ride, and this was a nice loop which took me slightly less than 40 minutes. Sunshine, no wind to mention, and a few drops of rain as I pulled back into the driveway. This was a nice way to take the joy of the Tour de France and put it into action.